Pacers lament missed golden opportunity to take command

Pacers guard Victor Oladipo was named

The Indiana Pacers gave it a shot, just not their best shot, they said.

After the Cleveland Cavaliers pulled out a 104-100 win in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series to square it at 2-2 on Sunday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Pacers lamented both their shot selection and their execution of said attempts.

After Lance Stephenson baited LeBron James into a technical foul and Victor Oladipo hit the resulting free throw, the Pacers held a 92-89 lead and were just more than six minutes away from taking a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.

However, perhaps spurred by the technical whistled on James, the Cavaliers promptly went on a 12-3 run, highlighted by amped-up defensive intensity and a pair of monster 3-pointers by Kyle Korver. Cleveland outscored Indiana the rest of the way, 15-8.

Oladipo, the Pacers’ All-Star who lit up the Cavaliers for 32 points in Game 1, continued to struggle, making just 5-of-20 shots, 2-of-5 down the stretch, including a desperation 3-pointer with 11.9 seconds to go with Indiana down six.

“I’m a person that learns,” Oladipo said. “Whatever you want to define that as, that’s what I am. I learn from it. I’ll make sure I’m better next game.”

While the Pacers trimmed Cleveland’s 10-point advantage to 80-78 after three quarters, Indiana could actually have been in even better shape if Oladipo had not missed all five shots he took in the period.

Indiana coach Nate McMillan described the Pacers’ offense as “frantic,” then lamented, “some heroic shots that were taken throughout the game.”

Indiana shot just 43.0 percent for the game (40 of 93), making 12-of-33 3-pointers (36.4 percent), but only 8-of-13 (61.5 percent) from the free-throw line.

The Indiana starters shot a combined 26-of-68, 38.2 percent. Aside from Domantas Sabonis’ 9-of-12 effort in 25 effective minutes off the bench, Indiana shot 31 of 81 (38.3 percent).

Asked specifically about Oladipo’s shot selection, McMillan refused to single out his star.

“I thought we, as a team, forced some shots,” he said. “We took some quick shots. We just didn’t play the game the right way, and it wasn’t just Victor. I thought we, as a unit, played the game like that. This group has played the game the right way. Sometimes you get into games like this, emotional games, and you’re so pumped up that sometimes you try to do things yourself, and a lot of times, it doesn’t work.”

At crunch time, with the Cavaliers upping their defensive pressure, the Pacers fell into bad habits, taking shots too late into the shot clock, having to hoist jumpers just to beat the shot clock and poor shot selection, overall.

Point guard Darren Collison, who made just 5-of-14 shots, admitted as much.

“We probably could have gotten better shots, but when you’re in the game guys are trying to make plays,” Collison, who contributed eight assists without turning the basketball over, said. “That’s a big part of winning games, the last five minutes.”

Thaddeus Young, who led all players with 16 rebounds, pointed toward execution, or lack thereof, as what plagued the Pacers offensively.

“We didn’t execute our offense to its entirety,” he said. “We did settle for some quick ones.”

Oladipo didn’t necessarily agree.

“I thought we got some pretty good looks,” he said. “For the most part, I thought they were decent.”

The former Indiana University star, acquired by the Pacers along with Sabonis from Oklahoma City in exchange for Paul George last summer, has faced much tougher defense from the Cavaliers after putting 32 on the board in Game 1.

Led by J.R. Smith and coach Tyronn Lue’s blitzing scheme that runs two defenders at him on pick-and-roll situations as well as on some isolation sets, added 22 points in a 100-97 loss in Game 2 in Cleveland.

In the two games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, however, Oladipo accounted for only 18 and 17 points, respectively, while being limited to 29-percent shooting from the field.

“I missed some shots I normally make,” Oladipo said. “They did a good job doubling me. I’ve just got to go back to the drawing board, watch film, get better.”

Unlike his teammates, Oladipo is more than happy to be headed from Indiana back to Cleveland for Game 5, which will be played Wednesday night at Quicken Loans Arena.

Oladipo averaged 1.6 more points per game on the road than he did at home during the regular season, posting better shooting percentages in all categories as well.

“Obviously, it’s a tough loss and it doesn’t feel good,” Oladipo said. “But at the end of the day, it’s a series and you have to be even-keeled.”

Collison gave kudos to Korver for coming up big when it counted, but also said it’s on, now.

“You’ve got to give credit to Korver because he hit some very tough shots,” he said. “They did what they had to do.

“It’s a series, now.”